The Paul Clüver wine estate in Elgin has long been a beautiful day-trip destination just outside of Cape Town, with excellent wine and a picture-perfect setting. While the culinary side has previously been outsourced, its first in-house restaurant opened early this year. Headed up by Chef Stacey Chan, previously of Arambrook Boutique Hotel, The Restaurant at Paul Clüver follows a farm-to-table ethos, with simple and wholesome food for the whole family. We chatted with Stacey about the new restaurant, its menu, and working with farm-fresh produce.
What were some of the reasons you wanted to join the Paul Clüver team?
They have a great work ethic and family-driven farm; you feel at home and part of the family from the minute you walk onto the farm. It was the hugest privilege to be approached by them to take on the challenge of opening a restaurant mid-Covid.
How did you go about creating the menu and why do you think that this sort of food works in the setting and on the Paul Clüver wine estate?
Most of the produce used in the menu comes off the farm. I looked at what the farm offered in the summer season and what is busy being grown by the De Rust Futura agricultural school on the farm and planned the menu accordingly. The rest of the produce is sourced locally. The food is simple and wholesome with a touch of sophistication to complement the Paul Clüver wine – because, at the end of the day, the restaurant is all about showing off the wines!
Tell us about how the food and wine pairings were developed?
Food and wine pairing on a wine farm-owned restaurant is part of the daily experience. We all sat down together, and I learnt the basic food flavours that paired with each wine. From that, a menu evolved, and then we tested dishes with the wine to see if the pairings worked – some worked like a dream, and others were tweaked until they were the perfect match.
As you set up the restaurant quite soon after the second wave of the Pandemic, do you think that it has influenced your menu or restaurant in any way?
Most definitely. The menu is simple, with produce used in both the breakfast and lunch menus. With most produce coming off the farm, we pick and choose what is needed daily and prepare for minimal orders. Currently, we’ve found that people are wary about spending money, so the menu was planned accordingly and set for the local market to enjoy the restaurant and its offerings daily.
Are there any favorite dishes emerging already?
Absolutely, the Sirloin steak with Pinot Noir butter has been a huge hit, along with our local Elgin free-range chicken dish. For dessert, it must be the apple crumble with the apples picked daily from the orchards right in front of the guests.
As foreigners are thin on the ground at the moment, are there any ways in which you’re specifically trying to attract locals to the restaurant?
We offer our local community a 10% discount on their meal as a “thank you” for supporting us. We attract people through our marketing campaigns and guided hikes and mountain biking on the farm.
The whole family can enjoy the farm – and you can even bring the dogs! Aside from the great food and wine in the restaurant, we offer wine tastings with local cheese boards, kiddie’s outdoor entertainment, and ‘’DIY” cupcake decorating.
And lastly, what’s the biggest leadership lesson you’ve learnt and how has it affected who you are as a chef today?
Respect and appreciation – without these two fundamental aspects within your staff, management, and team leaders, you will go nowhere slowly.